Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Travelogue #55: A Korean Amusement Park Wedding

n Sunday, I was a guest at a wedding and saw a baby tiger, a baby lion, and a full-grown chimpanzee. These critters were not swapping vows for a three-species intermarriage; no, they were mere spectators of a human wedding set in a cozy wooden lodge on the grounds of Everland, South Korea's own candy-coated version of Disney World.

Usually, Hyun-In is a beautiful secretary who works the phones and overbearing parents at Leadersville English Institute, but on Sunday, she was a beautiful bride bedecked in a gown longer than the state of Florida. While she posed for picture after picture in an open-doored parlor, a chimpanzee clung to its master in the next room, interacting with wedding guests who after realizing the bride was a princess-in-the-making, decided it was time to bond with a hairy primate.

Meanwhile, a marching band thumped in unison, a marching band composed of a fair share of white-skinned foreigners, leading Jovan to wonder, "Who decides to say, 'Hey, I'm going to move to South Korea and join a marching band that plays in an amusement park?'"

This was no ordinary wedding; this was an Everland wedding. The ceremony itself continued the carnival of surprises: at one point, the groom brought a baby cub to the front of the congregation. Why? I don't know, but the move was nonetheless greeted with smiles and applause. Instead of a priest or a minister, a professor from Seoul National University presided over the bride and groom's vows, all spoken in Korean of course, leaving my American-born colleagues and I to fill in the gaps of "love," and "eternity" and "faith." Jovan noted the casual chatting amongst the audience during the vows, creating an atmosphere more in the vein of a popular restaurant than that of matrimonial sanctuary. Was this a Korean thing? I always hesitate to label one Korean event I experience as representative of the norm, because clearly, every wedding has its idiosyncrasies, whether you're talking about Korea or the United States or anywhere else on the planet.

That being said, I did hear it's a conventional move to have the bride's mother hop upon the groom's back, and then have the groom race like a rocket through the crowded room. I saw this firsthand, and I don't think I was alone in marveling at how comfortable the bride's mom looked in transit. Maybe they had practiced this routine earlier.

After the ceremony and a tasty buffet lunch, my friend Nick and I found the bride dressed in the traditional hanbok gown. I only know Hyun-In casually, so I did not hug her, but I did say "Congratulations," jutting my palms in the air as if to say come-on-now-you-rascal-you. With a laugh, she repeated my gesture and said, "Thank you, Alex!"

Congratulations, Hyun-In, and let me promise you this: while you're on your honeymoon, I'll take care of the chimpanzee.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that's an orangutan.